Published in The Royal City Record, Saturday, June 20, 2009:
By Theresa McManus
The Royal City Farmers Market is striving to be more than a place to buy groceries.
The market is kicking off its second year on Thursday, June 25. It will run Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. in city hall’s Fourth Street parking lot.
“Last year there were 14 vendors on opening day,” said operations manager Jen Arbo. “I have 34 confirmed for opening day.”
Feedback from last year’s market indicated that people wanted to see fewer arts and crafts and more fresh produce. Crafters are being limited to no more than 20 per cent of the market’s vendors.
“We already have about five produce vendors,” Arbo said. “Two of them are certified organic.”
Some vendors from last year are returning, including Bison Maluna and Vienna Treasures.
“We didn’t have a problem finding vendors,” Arbo said. “I am turning people down for opening week. That’s a good problem to have.”
Visitors to the Royal City Farmers Market will find a range of items, including baked goods, produce and fish.
“I am really excited. There is a completely diverse selection,” Arbo said. “You can get your usual produce, your soap. I have a woman selling organic grain.”
In addition to shopping and socializing, people will also be able to enjoy some musical entertainment. Attempting to appeal to a broad range of interests, the market has lined up an eclectic mix of performers for the market – including accordion and fiddler players.
Arbo suggests that people bring a blanket and sit on the park lawn and take in the festivities. It’s also a good time to wander through Friendship Gardens and Tipperary Park.
“I’d love for people to get into the vibe of the market being a community meeting place. … New Westminster is such an awesome, diverse place,” she said. “I’d really like to have that translated into the market.”
Arbo notes that some younger people may have only ever known buying produce from a grocery store, so this is a good opportunity to enjoy a different shopping experience.
“It’s really a nice organic experience – not the certified variety,” she said. “It is a real sensory treat.”
Aside from its weekly offerings, the Royal City Farmers Market is planning to hold several special events this season.
“Our first one is our kickoff week,” Arbo said. “We are calling it Welcome to Summer Vacation.”
New Westminster Family Place will attend with toys and crafts for kids up to six years of age and Fraser River Discovery Centre will provide crafts and a learning booth for kids.
St. John Ambulance will have free goodies and a wandering magician, face painter and violinist will attend on the opening day.
Royal City Farmers Market will kick off its 2009 season with a bang as Mayor Wayne Wright officially opens the market with help from the Seymour Artillery Association.
“We have another really awesome market on July 23,” Arbo said. “That’s to celebrate New Westminster’s 150th anniversary. We are going to plan something special.”
On Aug. 13, the “Get Active Market” will include demonstrations and attendance by groups supporting an active lifestyle.
“I really want people to understand that getting active in their community includes going to farmers’ market. There are other options,” Arbo said. “You don’t have to leave New Westminster to get active.”
Royal City Farmers Market is once again, offering a dedicated space to non-profit groups.
New Westminster Horticulture Society, the Biggest Little Garden in Town program and the Century House ceramic group are among the group’s making use of the space.
“They can promote their group. They can get a bit of exposure without a fee,” Arbo said. “This is a way for them to show off what they do.”
Royal City Farmers Market is getting set to unveil its new website. Check it out at www.rcfm.ca.
The market, which runs until Oct. 8, is held rain or shine.
Marketgoers can park for free in the metered spaces in front of city hall during market hours or in city hall’s parking lot after 4:30 p.m.
Arbo, who has a background in event planning, recently accepted a job as the market’s operations manager.
“I think being the operations manager is one of the most exciting things,” she said. “You are the person who shapes what the market is like. You are also an ambassador about farmers’ markets.”
Arbo was originally slated to be a vendor at the Royal City Farmers Market, where she planned to sell her Chai By Night products. She’s since had to hire someone to work that booth.
“I will be making the product. She will be selling it,” she said. “I won’t have anything to do with my booth.”
Arbo regularly attended last year’s Royal City Farmers Market, accompanied by infant son Kale.
“We made a point of going up and buying all our produce there every week, trying to support local businesses, local individuals,” she said. “I was there as a shopper last year. I remember going and really getting a kick out of meeting the people who grew what I was going to buy. It was outdoors. It was very peaceful.”